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Gatland can’t wait to get started. . . again!

Warren Gatland during the Autumn Nations Series

Gatland can’t wait to get started. . . again!

Warren Gatland is back and he can’t wait to get started once again as the Wales senior men’s head coach. 

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That was the message the three-time Grand Slam winning coach hammered out in his first press conference since agreeing to step in to guide Wales through to the World Cup in France next year following the departure of Wayne Pivac.  

Here is what he had to say on a range of issues, starting with a tribute to his predecessor. 

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WAYNE PIVAC
There is a human side to all this with Wayne departing. That must have been tough, and my thoughts go out to him and his family. It is important I do recognise that because he is a good man with some really good values. 


COMING BACK TO WALES

I know it is a pressure job that comes with a lot of expectations, but the buzz of international rugby, and being involved in the Six Nations and World Cup, were the tempting factors to sway me to come back. 

I loved my time in Wales and I loved the people and the involvement. I wouldn’t have stayed as long as I did if I hadn’t had a relationship with the fans. We had some success, as well as some disappointments, and I hope I can come and create an environment where we can service the expectations of the Welsh public, who want to see Wales perform. 

The advantage I’ve got is that I know the set-up and I know so many of the people involved. I think I can hit the ground running. There is a new group of players and there is a process I’ve got to go through over the next few weeks to get a real feel for the place again. 

It isn’t like 2007-2008 when I came in completely cold. I think that’s a massive advantage. I know Wales, know the set-up and hopefully I’ll be able to come in and be pretty seamless in stepping back into the role. 

LEGACY ON THE LINE
My legacy is on the line, but that’s the exciting part of it. I’m under no illusions about what the expectations are for the next 10 months. I’ve always loved a challenge and going into environments and exceeding expectations. That’s part of professional sport – there are ups and downs and you live by your results and performances. 

I’m excited about it and I understand there are pressures and risks. But I’m confident I can come in and make a difference and get together a side that will be proud to pull on that jersey.

When they go out there to represent their fans, home or away, my expectation is they will be prepared to die for that jersey – nothing less in terms of what it means to play for Wales, the history and the expectation. If we can achieve that in a short period of time, that will give us the best opportunity to be successful.

A REGIONAL DEAL
Everyone will be really happy there is some certainty for people moving forwards. That’s one less thing for all of us to worry about. The players need some certainty and hopefully this will alleviate some of the pressure on the regions and particularly the players. Hopefully they can put this behind them and focus on the rugby going forward.

LOOKING FORWARD TO SIX NATIONS
I wouldn’t have taken this on unless I thought I could make a difference. Six Nations for me is the best rugby competition in the world and I’ve always loved being a part of that. Then there is the excitement about building towards a World Cup. The World Cup is the chance to get proper preparation time to work hard at your game. 

The Six Nations is important in the context of it being a World Cup year. It is completely different to the Autumn Nations Series, where you get the chance to try things out, try some combinations. There are points at stake in the Six Nations and that replicates in some way the World Cup, when the aim initially is to get out of your Pool.  

For us it will hopefully be about hitting the ground running. We need to make sure we have a campaign in which, first of all, we are competitive. It is a good draw having Ireland first up and then England at home as well. Getting the No 1 team in the world first up is fantastic. I’m excited about that, as well as having the blue teams away.  

I want to see the players going out and wearing the jersey with incredible pride and putting in performances that reflect the hard work they will be putting in. If we do that, we’ve got a chance of having a good Six Nations. Then we can build on that in some great warm-up games before the World Cup.

HOW LONG IN WALES
My immediate focus is between now and the World Cup. After that it will be myself and Steve (Phillips) talking about some possibilities going forward. We need to ensure we’ve been successful and made progress in those 10 months and then potentially other opportunities arise after that. That’s how we are at the moment.

There is no certainty, but I’m comfortable with that. If the next 10 months isn’t successful, then you know what the consequences are. I’m confident I can come in and create an environment in which we can be successful.  If that happens then potentially other discussions may take place. But I’m not looking past the next 10 months, beyond France.

It is a big job to focus on and the immediate challenge is to get the team ready for the Six Nations and then getting some more time together to prepare for France.

WALES IN THE AUTUMN
People will have been disappointed with the autumn, especially with the result against Georgia. The All Blacks is always a tough one, especially first up. For 40-50 minutes against Australia the team showed some real potential. Capitulating in the last 20 minutes was disappointing, although the yellow cards didn’t help. When we got some front-foot ball Gareth Anscombe was excellent in terms of playing to the line and getting the back line moving. Jac Morgan gave the team some go-forward and there are some quality loose forwards in Wales, as usual.  

There are some positions that lack some depth, but there is some excitement out wide, which is great. George North looked very good defensively against Australia and carried well. There are a few holes that need to be filled and there is some discussion about the age profile of the group. I need to be cognisant of that and how it is managed. Can some players get through another 12 months? I haven’t had those discussions with the medical and S&C teams, as well as other members of the squad.  

If we can build on that first 40 minutes against Australia – although I’m mindful it was against a team down 24 players and they will be a different proposition if they get those players coming back for the World Cup – when there were some promising signs, that will be good. 

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